The Livermore Vine editorial board reached its decisions based on the candidates' performances at our recent forum, email interviews on endorsements, and our review of past reporting and research.
In a crowded race for Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District Board of Education, three candidates stand out as best suited for the five-member governing body.
Newcomer Steven Drouin and incumbents Emily Prusso and Craig Bueno have earned our endorsement for the three open at-large school board seats.
While all nine candidates in the race have expressed, in one way or another, a passion for education and supporting Livermore youth, Drouin, Prusso and Bueno have displayed the strongest understanding of how the Livermore school board operates and presented the most tangible ideas and strategies for how to improve and continue moving the district forward.
Drouin's background as an educator and researcher will serve the school board well in addition to being a parent of students in LVJUSD and having a wife who teaches in the district. With these connections to education and specifically to Livermore, Drouin would bring a unique perspective to the board with insights from various angles.
While he has never held public office, Drouin has put in the time to learn how things work within the district as an organization by serving on the school site committee at his children's school and participating in the district's parcel tax oversight committee. He's also spent time in classrooms and building relationships with teachers as a parent volunteer. His level of involvement indicates a strong commitment to understanding the district's needs and how to meet them.
As a trustee for the past four years – serving as clerk for two of them – Prusso has the experience and knowledge of how the board operates and the goals the district is currently working toward.
Like several of her fellow candidates, Prusso has cited closing the achievement gap as one of her top priorities but what sets her apart, in our view, is that she has identified attainable strategies for doing so, including providing students with opportunities to work at their own pace and explore their own interests, support for test retakes and assignment resubmissions and encouraging and nurturing pathways toward trade careers.
We are recommending current board President Craig Bueno for a third term on the school board because he has demonstrated effective leadership over the course of several years and has played a key role in establishing partnerships that have benefited the district financially.
His experience will continue to serve him well on the board as the district moves forward with ongoing bond-funded improvement projects and works toward supporting the academic growth of students following the pandemic.
The other six candidates on the ballot include retired legal businessman John Kupski, community member and mother Alex Izarraraz, development director Kristina Mazaika, doctor and businesswoman Deena Kaplanis, incumbent Anne White and student and community organizer Hayden Sidun.
Neither Kupski nor Izarraraz participated in our Sept. 26 candidate forum, which was a missed opportunity to provide deeper insight into their campaign goals and their plans for how to accomplish them. Both candidates were also unresponsive to our requests for statements for consideration in our endorsement process.
As a longtime educator, Mazaika has compelling ideas for how to support students by prioritizing social and emotional learning in addition to academics. However, as a relatively new resident of Livermore – having moved to the city from Southern California in 2017 – she has not demonstrated a strong grasp of topics specifically related to Livermore's school system. We encourage Mazaika to consider pursuing a district-level committee to gain more civic experience and LVJUSD background knowledge.
Kaplanis has expressed enthusiasm for advocating for parents and students as an LVJUSD parent herself and she has cited a number of ambitious goals she'd like to address if elected, including safety and covid learning loss, but she hasn't outlined specific, actionable plans for moving those efforts forward.
With more than three decades under her belt serving on the Board of Education, there is no question that White has adequate knowledge, experience and wisdom as a seasoned trustee. However, the school board would benefit from some fresh ideas and perspectives going forward. White previously acknowledged in a statement to Livermore Vine that there is a need for the district to become more innovative to improve student achievement. While we agree with that observation, we believe some of White's opponents have better communicated innovative approaches to addressing the district's needs.
We would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the youngest contender in this race, candidate Sidun, who has relevant firsthand experience with the education system as a recent LVJUSD graduate and is the only candidate who has attended grade school during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. At 18 years old, it is refreshing to see a young person who is passionate about civic engagement and service to the community. We would like to see Sidun gain more civic experience and learn more about the education system from an organizational perspective and return as a school board candidate in the future.
Vote Drouin, Prusso and Bueno for Livermore school board.